THE POLITICS OF ABORTION

Isn’t it curious that there is a huge debate in the United States which has an abortion law while there is little debate on abortion in Canada which doesn’t have one.

        Pierre Trudeau, a Roman Catholic, introduced a Canadian abortion law in 1969.  The Supreme Court overturned this law in 1988. Four consecutive Roman Catholic prime ministers did nothing to re-instate the abortion law.  Stephen Harper, although a social conservative, has refused to reopen the abortion debate and despite the anathemas on abortion hurled by the likes of Bishop Henry in Calgary, there is lttle effective agitation in Canada to put abortion back in the criminal code.  

          Abortion is not a salient issue in Canada’s general elections partly because the anti-abortion faction from the Pope down is so dogmatic.  The only legislation that would satisfy the Roman Church’s strict criteria would be the recriminalization of abortion, with stiff jail sentences for all concerned.  No candidate who stood on such a platform would have any chance of being elected.

         A concerted push by the Catholic Church to start a movement in favour of such a radical change in the law would have exactly the opposite effect — doubly so, if bishops were seen to be pressuring Catholic MPs to toe a Catholic party line.   (Sensibly few Canadian bishops try to intimidate Catholic members of Parliament on the issue of abortion)

       Indeed it could be argued (as Clifford Longley writes in The Tablet) that the Church’s hard line line on abortion for the last 20 years of so, may have led to more abortions, not fewer. The argument in the public square that abortion is murder “because the Catholic Church says so”, is not going to persuade anybody.  Indeed, non-Catholics cannot be bound by the teaching authority of a Church they do not belong to. 

       I daresay many devout people of other faiths oppose abortion.  But when faced with the recent example of an 11-year old girl in England made pregnant because of an incestuous rape, most of them would say it is legitimate to choose the lesser evil.  That would be my choice.

        There is always some satisfaction in being smugly right.  Certainly hurling around dogmatic statements that abortion is murder is much easier than constructing a credible case against abortion that might attract non-Catholic support.  But there is no sign of that in Canada or anywhere else.

5 Comments »

  1. 1
    SUZANNE Says:

    Stephen is considered only mildly social conservative by informed so-cons.

    ” Abortion is not a salient issue in Canada’s general elections partly because the anti-abortion faction from the Pope down is so dogmatic. ”

    No, because the liberal establishment has what it wants.

    “The only legislation that would satisfy the Roman Church’s strict criteria would be the recriminalization of abortion, with stiff jail sentences for all concerned. No candidate who stood on such a platform would have any chance of being elected.”

    Most political active pro-lifers believe in gradual re-criminalization.

    “A concerted push by the Catholic Church to start a movement in favour of such a radical change in the law would have exactly the opposite effect ”

    Most politically active pro-lifers are self-starters and often encounter indifference or hostility from the Church. The Catholic hierarchy in this country will do close to nothing about abortion.

    “The argument in the public square that abortion is murder “because the Catholic Church says so”, is not going to persuade anybody. Indeed, non-Catholics cannot be bound by the teaching authority of a Church they do not belong to. ”

    Politically active pro-lifers do not use that argument.

    “But when faced with the recent example of an 11-year old girl in England made pregnant because of an incestuous rape, most of them would say it is legitimate to choose the lesser evil.”

    The real substance of the debate is whether the unborn child is an equal human being. That is really at the centre of the debate.

    ” Certainly hurling around dogmatic statements that abortion is murder is much easier than constructing a credible case against abortion that might attract non-Catholic support. ”

    It is. And political pro-lifers do have their arguments, but since the liberal establishment has no interest in having the debate, they’re not going to air pro-life arguments.

    “But there is no sign of that in Canada or anywhere else.”

    I think there’s little evidence of that in Quebec. But in the rest of Canada, there is greater and more perceptible pro-life activity.

  2. 2
    Barbara Says:

    To reduce the number of abortions — something I believe we can agree upon as a good thing — what is needed is convincing the minds and hearts of the young. Dogmatism does not work on them. If people do not seek abortion as a solution in the first place, there will be fewer performed. But there are many out there who need financial and moral support for that decision.

  3. 3

    Incidentally, if the Catholic Church really believes the foetus is a human being from the moment of conception, why is the sacrament of the sick and a funeral not provided for babies who die of miscarriages? Wouldn’t that reinforce the Church’s position and send a powerful message?

  4. 4
    SUZANNE Says:

    Neil: There is not sacrament for the sick for miscarried babies because the babies are dead. Sacraments are for the living. Second, if they’re not dead, then they’re in a uterus, and the priest isn’t going to shove his hand into an amniotic sac to rub oil on the baby’s head. Third, if the baby is born late in the second or early third trimester (and thus living outside the womb), he can receive the sacrament, but most priests would be worried about baptism at that point.

    And there are funerals for miscarried babies. When there’s no body, you can have a memorial mass. I had a mass for my miscarried child in 2004.

  5. 5

    Suzanne: Thanks for the explanation.

    A final point. If the Church teaches, as it does, that human life is sacred from conception to the grave, how do we view thousands and thousands of innocent civilians murdered in the Iraqui war? Are they to be passed off with the obscene metaphor “collateral damage”? If the Church were consistent shouldn’t it teach that all modern day wars (and more so all nuclear war), because of the huge danger of innocent loss of life, are immoral?


RSS Feed for this entry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: